Race report accused of 'glorifying' slave trade by Labour MP

31 March 2021, 17:52 | Updated: 31 March 2021, 18:15

Marsha de Cordova and Sir Keir Starmer have expressed their discontent with the findings of the report
Marsha de Cordova and Sir Keir Starmer have expressed their discontent with the findings of the report. Picture: PA

By Will Taylor

Labour's Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary Marsha de Cordova has accused a race report of "glorifying" the slave trade.

The report on race and ethnic disparities has sparked backlash after it found Britain is no longer a place where "the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities".

Labour has highlighted one passage in the 264-page report, which said: "There is a new story about the Caribbean experience which speaks to the slave period not only being about profit and suffering but how culturally African people transformed themselves into a re-modelled African/Britain."

Read more: David Lammy's stirring speech in response to UK's race report

Shadow women and equalities secretary Marsha de Cordova said: "This report was an opportunity to seriously engage with the reality of inequality and institutional racism in the UK.

"Instead we have a divisive polemic which cherry-picks statistics.

"The government must urgently explain how they came to publish content which glorifies the slave trade and immediately disassociate themselves with these remarks."

Labour has hit out at today's race report.
Labour has hit out at today's race report. Picture: PA

LBC's David Lammy said that Boris Johnson has "let an entire generation of young white and black British people down" who are fighting for equality.

"This report could have been a turning point, a moment for us all to come together. Instead it has chosen to divide us once more and keep us debating the existence of racism rather than doing anything about it," he said.

"I tell myself that the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice...it would help if this Government were not so determined to bend the arc backwards."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he was "disappointed" by the findings from the report published so far, insisting there were structural problems that needed to be addressed.

He told reporters on a visit in Leeds: "I haven't seen the full report yet and, obviously, I'll want to read that.

"I've seen the briefings out of it and I'm disappointed.

"On the one hand, there's an acknowledgement of the problems, the issues, the challenges that face many black and minority ethnic communities.

"But, on the other hand, there's a reluctance to accept that that's structural."

Labour leader Sir Keir added there had been "report after report" on the issue and called for a full race equality act.

He told reporters: "We have had report after report. We have seen the disproportionate impact on black and minority ethnic communities of the pandemic.

"I think what we now need to see is a proper acknowledgement of the depth of that, the structural nature of that, but, most of all, to act on the very many recommendations that we've had for many years, whether that's in the business community, at board level, in criminal justice, on the pandemic.

"I think, in the end, what we need is a race equality act, which is what the Labour Party is committed to."

The foreword by chair Dr Tony Sewell CBE also said that "impediments and disparities do exist, they are varied, and ironically very few of them are directly to do with racism".

"Too often 'racism' is the catch-all explanation, and can be simply implicitly accepted rather than explicitly examined," the foreword said, adding that the authors "do not deny" that racism is a "real force" in the UK.

It made 24 recommendations, including tackling online racist abuse and improving relationships between the police and communities through improved training for officers.

Read more: PM hails controversial race report as ‘important’ and pledges to 'take action'

Read more: Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report: The key points

Boris Johnson said: "The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities was launched to conduct a detailed, data-led examination of inequality across the entire population, and to set out a positive agenda for change.

"I want to thank Dr Tony Sewell and each of the commissioners for generously giving their time to lead this important piece of work.

"It is now right that the Government considers their recommendations in detail, and assesses the implications for future government policy.

"The entirety of government remains fully committed to building a fairer Britain and taking the action needed to address disparities wherever they exist."